Born in 1181 as Giovanni di Bernardone, Francis was the son of Pietro di Bernardone, a rich cloth merchant in Assisi in Italy. He led a wealthy and privileged life, wearing clothes made of the best materials and was well educated. With a future guaranteed in his father's business some of his youth was misspent. His experiences as a soldier, during which time he was a prisoner of war, led him to a more sombre and religious life. He undertook a pilgrimage to Rome and returned to Assisi following spiritual visions and mystical experiences. He decided to devote his life to the Christian faith and renounced all of his wealth preferring to lead a life of poverty.
His evangelical preaching inspired others to follow him and in 1209, Francis and his first followers went to Rome to ask permission from Pope Innocent III to found a new religious order. The pope agreed and Francis d'Assisi became the founder of the Franciscan Order of Preaching Friars. He was said to have preached to birds and animals which explains his association with nature and all of God's creatures. Francis of Assisi is also famous for the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Saint Francis of Assisi died in 1226 of natural causes. He is the patron saint of Italy, animals, merchants and the ecology.
St. Francis of Assisi…pray for us! Live Jesus in our hearts…forever!